As the world watches Russian troops amass along the Ukraine border, Ukraine, the US, and other countries prepare to defend against a kinetic war. However, since this is 2022, warfare can and most definitely will occur in cyber space as well.
While Russia has and will continue to attack Ukraine in cyber space as a force multiplier, this will not be the extent of their attacks.
Russia and other adversarial countries have historically levied attacks against the US. It is an ongoing threat. You may have heard the term “advanced persistent threat” (APT) which refers to ongoing cyber threats from nation-states. Unfortunately, this is something those of us in the cyber security world deal with all the time and have become accustomed to.
However, in the ramp-up to what may someday be referre to as World War III, we will see these threats evolve and increase in sophistication, damage, and target.
One only needs to reflect on the last year to see cyber attacks that crippled our nation, at least temporarily. The Colonial Pipeline attack, the JBS Foods attack, even the Oldsmar Water attack. We see how an attack on our critical infrastructure can affect a community, a state, or a region.
We also saw many attacks on local city, county, and state governments (in addition to federal agencies). When these happen, civic services are halted for days, even first responders are hampered in performing their duties. Hospitals have to turn away patients or cancel procedures.
What if these occurred simultaneously? What if our energy source was eliminated, our food supply was halted, our communication systems were held hostage, our first responders couldn’t receive our calls for help, our hospitals couldn’t care for our sick, and we couldn’t contact our local or state government agencies for help?
Why would Russia execute a multi-pronged attack on the US while they were otherwise engaged in a cyber and kinetic attack on Ukraine? To keep the US out of that part of the world. To distract us. Even if Russia were not the perpetrator, other countries that were sympathetic to their cause might launch such attacks. Or it may not even be a nation-state but a cyber criminal conducting attacks for hire.
What can we do? We can’t just hide our heads in the sand and hope that the bad guys don’t come after us. Hope is not a strategy. We must face the reality of the threat. We must understand that our security is a responsibility we all share.
Prior to 9/11, not many people imagined that airliners would be used against us in such a terrifying way. Similarly, we must try to think of how we could be attacked. What is the art of the possible? While we cannot prevent all attacks, we must identify what is most valuable, what we cannot live or function without, and implement tools and processes to protect those things.
Cyber security is not a luxury. It is our patriotic responsibility to ensure our nation is secure by protecting our states, our counties, and our cities. Our Homeland.
Whether we are responsible for the water to our community, the bank in our neighborhood, the hospital down the street, or our local courthouse, we must all work to protect the operations and information we hold.